The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-game winning streak was snapped with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken on Friday.  The team’s sudden success has them in a 3-way tie with the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers for the division lead in the Metropolitan division (though Carolina has three games in hand).  Many analysts suspected the Penguins to be a middling team this season, and maybe even missing the playoffs due to injuries to star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins have rallied and put themselves in a very favourable position moving forward and pushes management to be buyers rather than sellers at the upcoming trade deadline.

One player whose name will likely be circulating more and more as the March deadline approaches will be long-time Penguins defenceman Kris Letang – an impending unrestricted free agent and the team’s best defenceman.  General Manager Ron Hextall didn’t have much to say when asked about the ongoing negotiations, but he did drop a few hints as to how it was going:

Geno and Tanger have been here for, I think, 16 years. I know they’ve done a lot for the city, and the city has been good to them. So certainly a match that we’d like to continue on with, but obviously, the players have choices too.

“Geno” is in reference to Evgeni Malkin, the 3x Stanley Cup Champion who also happens to be a free agent this upcoming offseason.  Penguins’ 3rd line center Jeff Carter recently resigned for 2 years for what Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski suggests was below market value, which is something Kris Letang is reportedly not prepared to do.

It’s been reported that while Malkin is willing to take a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh, The Score reports that Letang is looking for a raise from the $7.25 million per season that he is currently earning.  This revelation suddenly puts Letang’s name back in the rumor mill, as the team’s recent play made it seem more likely that they would keep the 16-year NHL veteran through the deadline.  Regardless of the team’s on-ice performance, Letang’s contract demands may convince Hextall to move the 34-year-old rather than lose him for nothing in the offseason.

Photo Credit: © Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

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